Although I haven’t yet experienced pregnancy for myself, I know from observing and listening to other women during their final trimester how difficult things can get toward the end. After nine months, the last three can seem to last years! Your feet and ankles have swollen, you can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in, and your body feels achy and sore.
It’s no wonder women yearn for natural ways to induce labor in those final weeks! How great would it be to have your body back to yourself and a sweet babe in your arms?
6 Natural Ways to Induce Labor
While many new mothers-to-be may feel a bit nervous as their due date arrives, I think it’s safe to say that when the home stretch starts to feel too long, even they may find themselves researching natural ways to self-induce labor.
But which methods are more than just old wives tales? And more importantly, which ones are safe to try?
How to Naturally Induce Labor Using Evidence-Based Techniques
The following methods are generally considered safe to try once you hit the third trimester as long as you’re having a healthy pregnancy and baby is being closely monitored. It’s always wise to discuss your options for self-inducing labor with your midwife, doula, or physician before diving in.
- Castor Oil
Castor oil has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years for stimulating lymphatic drainage, encouraging healthy circulation, and for supporting the liver. Today, castor oil is known for its internal use to help naturally induce labor.
How does castor oil do this?
Within our intestines, uterus, and immune cells there resides special EP3 receptors that are stimulated by the ricinoleic acid found in castor oil. When castor oil is consumed, the ricinoleic acid attaches to these receptors and causes the smooth muscle fibers to contract. (source)
This is why you get diarrhea when you ingest castor oil because the EP3 receptor sites within the intestines have been stimulated by the castor oil which triggers the bowel to evacuate.
These receptors are also found in the uterus, so you can guess what else might happen if you take castor oil internally – induced labor!
However, it’s important to note that first-time mothers have been found to have little success in self-inducing labor with castor oil.
On the other hand, women who have had at least one other pregnancy were found to be 25.5% more likely to go into labor within 48 hours of consuming castor oil. (source)
Is Castor Oil Safe to Take to Induce Labor?
It’s important to speak with your doctor before ingesting castor oil when pregnant because it may not be right for your body or your situation. You definitely wouldn’t want to take it during a high-risk pregnancy even if you are at 40 weeks.
If taken too early, the castor oil may actually make labor longer and more difficult since your body and your baby aren’t ready for labor yet. (source)
Another factor to take into account is whether or not you have had a cesarean section in a previous pregnancy. If you have, castor oil isn’t, as of right now, considered safe to consume due to the possibility that the contractions caused by the castor oil can tear scar tissue. (source)
However, if your body is showing signs that labor is close on the horizon (take your Bishop Score to see if your cervix is ripening) and you have not had a c-section previously, then you can, with the approval of your physician, take castor oil to help nudge the body forward.
How to Take Castor Oil for Inducing Labor
If you have been given the go-ahead and are at least 40 weeks along, you can begin by taking 2 TB of castor oil mixed into orange juice or coconut water. You can make it easier to consume by pulsing everything in a blender and knocking it back.
Wait 24-48 hours before taking more – up to ¼ cup of castor oil.
- Eating Dates
Yes, eating dates can help with childbirth – who knew?
Evidently, eating 6-8 dates per day during the third trimester of pregnancy has an oxytocin-like effect on the body. The nutritional makeup of dates also help supply the body with plenty of prostaglandins which we know are cervix ripening compounds. Additionally, dates also help stimulate uterine contractions due to their laxative effect and serotonin, calcium, and tannin content.
According to one study, women who consumed 6 dates per day during the four weeks prior to their due date were 74% more dilated than women who did not consume dates. That’s incredible!
The study also goes on to say that 77% of these date-eating women had a shorter first stage of labor.
Another study found that women who consumed dates after their 37th week of pregnancy had 43% lower rates of c-section and were 68% more likely to have a successful vaginal delivery after being induced.
Sounds like one of the tastiest natural ways to induce labor to me!
Which Dates Are Best For Inducing Labor?
The studies seem to use Deglet Noor dates, so I would try to source those if possible. Otherwise, Medjool dates may be substituted.
It is recommended to eat 75 grams (or 2.6 oz) of dates per day starting from your 36th week of pregnancy. To get an accurate measurement, pick up a kitchen scale. Otherwise, shoot for eating 6-8 dates per day as long as you don’t have blood sugar concerns during your pregnancy.
Where to Source Deglet Noor Dates
- Nipple Stimulation
Stimulating the whole breast, along with the nipples, is known to help induce, boost, and encourage stalled or slow labor. Performing a slow rhythmic massage of the whole breast will boost oxytocin levels and help get labor underway. (source)
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Many midwives, doulas, or fellow crunchy mamas have sworn by the efficacy of red raspberry leaf tea to help with a myriad of pregnancy concerns including labor. (source)
Some of this fabled tea’s abilities are known to:
- Help balance hormones
- Increase fertility
- Improve the chances of implantation
- Lessen menstrual discomfort
- Provide many essential vitamins and minerals
- Help prevent miscarriage by strengthening the uterine wall
- May help reduce morning sickness
- Strengthens the amniotic sac
- Reduces pain during labor and recovery
- Labor may be shorter and less painful
- Can help rebalance postpartum hormones
- Helps stimulate the production of breastmilk
- Improves contractions
Many studies have shown that consuming red raspberry leaf tea after the first trimester can help reduce labor time and complications during birth.
When is it Safe to Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea During Pregnancy?
It’s important not to consume red raspberry leaf tea in the first trimester since it can potentially increase uterine contractions too early.
Most women wait until they are at least 34 weeks before they start drinking the tea to help their bodies prepare for labor by topping up their vitamin and mineral stores and strengthening the uterus to make labor more productive.
How to Much Red Raspberry Tea to Drink
Once you have been given the go-ahead by a professional, you can start by drinking 1 cup of red raspberry leaf tea starting at 34 weeks. If your body has no reactions (i.e. no cramping, etc.) you may consult with your midwife, doula, or doctor about increasing your dose to 2 cups a day.
If you experience any negative effects, especially concerning the uterus like cramping, then stop taking the tea and refrain from drinking it for two weeks before asking for approval to take it again.
Where to Source Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
If you have reached your due date (which is really just a due estimate), then, with approval, you can make the fabled Labor Day Tea recipe.
To make Labor Day Tea, you will need:
- 5 cups of high-quality red raspberry leaf tea (or 24 tea bags)
- 4 cups of filtered water
Red Raspberry Leaf Preparation
Put the loose-leaf tea and filtered water in a pot on the stove and bring the tea to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Strain and drink throughout the day.
This sounds too simple and not exactly scientifically proven, but staying calm, relaxed, and as comfortable as possible in the final weeks of pregnancy can help keep adrenaline and stress levels low since letting these needlessly skyrocket can actually delay or stall labor.
Taking time to pamper yourself by focusing on self-care, deep breathing, pleasant walks, or even watching your favorite flick can do wonders for upping those happy labor-inducing hormones!
Yep, I said it, having more sexy-time works because semen contains prostaglandins – known hormone-like compounds that help ripen the cervix.
The key to getting this method to work properly is to have sex at least three times in a short time frame since three ejaculations contain the same amount of prostaglandins as the cervical ripening medication Cervidil. Cervidil itself is actually made with animal semen, so why not opt for sex with your husband instead? (source)
So, there you have it! A few tried and true natural ways to induce labor. What methods have worked for you? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
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